The Flight of Gods – Hindu Temples and Shrines of Goa – 1.

by Mohan Pai

Hindu Temples & Shrines of Goa
Hindu Temples
All over the ancient civilized world, wherever primitive civilization came into existence (in Africa, Western & eastern Asia, Europe) a temple always arose. “The beginnings of civilization and the appearance of temples is simultaneous in history. The two things belong together. The beginning of cities is the temple stage of history” (H. G. Wells). People have lived in the town of Jericho continuously since about 9,000 BC. A shrine stands on the site of ancient Jericho in the Near East on the west bank of river Jordan. Perhaps this is the oldest temple recorded in human history.
Birth of Hindu Temples
In India, the Vedic people did not have temples but had outdoor platforms termed as “Yagasala” for Vedic rituals. Temples do not seem to have existed during the Vedic age. It is the Yagasala of the Vedic period that gradually got metamorphosed into temples owing to the influence of the cults of devotion and the images of the deities of the Vedas came into vogue by the end of the epic period.The earliest temples were built with perishable materials like timber and clay and the cave-temples, temples carved out of the stone or built with bricks came later. Heavy stone structures with ornate architecture and sculpture belong to a still later period.There is a basic set pattern for building of temple followed both in the North and in the South. In spite of the basic pattern being the same, varieties did appear, gradually leading to the evolution of different styles in temple architecture. Broadly speaking, these can be classified into the northern and the southern styles. The northern style, technically called nagara, is distinguished by the curvilinear towers. The southern style, known as the dravida, has its towers in the form of truncated pyramids. A third style, vesara by name, is sometimes added, which combines in itself both these styles. They employ respectively the square, octagon and the apse or circle in their plan. These three styles do not pertain strictly to three different regions but as indicating only the temple groups.

Nagara, Dravida & Vesara designs

The temples at Sanchi, Tigawa (near Jabbalpur in Madhya Pradesh), Bhumara (in Madhya Pradesh), Nachna (Rajasthan) and Deogarh (near Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh) have withstood the vagaries of time and are the earliest temples belonging to Gupta period (320-650 A.D.)

The Dravidan school of architecture, evolved from the earliest Buddhist shrines which were both rock-cut and structural. These earliest temples which have survived are found in Tamil Nadu and northern Karnataka. The later rock-cut temples which belong roughly to the period 500-800 A.D. were mostly Brahmanical or Jain, patronised by three great ruling dynasties of the south, namely the Pallavas of Kanchi in the east, the Chalukyas of Badami in the 8th century A.D, the Rastrakutas of Malkhed made great contributions to the development of south Indian temple architecture. The Kailasanatha temple at Ellora belongs to this period.
Aihole and Pattadakal group of temples (5 – 7 centuries) in northern Karnataka show early attempts to evolve an acceptable regional style based on tradition. Among the better known early structural temples at Aihole are the Huchimalligudi and Durga temples as also the Ladkhan temple, all assigned to the period 450-650 A.D. Equally important are the temples of Kasinatha, Papanatha, Sangamesvara, Virupaksa and others in Pattadakal near Aihole as also the Svargabrahma temple at Alampur (Andhra Pradesh). It is in some of these temples, built by the later Chalukyas, that we come across the vesara style, a combination of the northern and the southern modes.The dravida or Tamilian style became very popular throughout south India only from the Vijayanagar times onward. The northern style came to prevail in Rajasthan Upper India, Orissa, the Vindhyan uplands and Gujarat.During the next thousand years (from600 to 1600 A.D.) there was a phenomenal growth in temple architecture both in quantity and quality. The first in the series of southern or dravidian architecture was initiated by the Pallavas (600-900A.D.) The rock-cut temples at Mahabalipuram (of the aks. The temples, now built of stone, became bigger, more complex and ornate with sculptures. Dravidian architecture reached its glory during the Chola period (900-1200 A.D.) by becoming more imposing in size and endowed with happy proportions. Among the most beautiful of the Chola temples is the Brihadisvara temple at Tanjore with its 66 metre high vimana, the tallest of its kind. The later Pandyans who succeeded the Cholas improved on the style by introducing elaborate ornamentation and big sculptural images, many-pillared halls, new annexes to the shrine and towers (gopurams) on the gateways. The mighty temple complexes of Madurai and Srirangam in Tamil Nadu set a pattern for the Vijayanagar builders (1350-1565 A.D.) who followed the dravidian tradition. The Pampapati and Vitthala temples in Hampi are standing examples of this period. The Nayaks of Madurai who succeeded the Vijayanagar kings (1600-1750 A.D.) made the dravidian temple complex even more elaborate by making the gopurams very tall and ornate and adding pillared corridors within the temple long compound.
Madurai and Srirangam in Tamil Nadu set a pattern for the Vijayanagar builders (1350-1565 A.D.) who followed the dravidian tradition. The Pampapati and Vitthala temples in Hampi are standing examples of this period. The Nayaks of Madurai who succeeded the Vijayanagar kings (1600-1750 A.D.) made the dravidian temple complex even more elaborate by making the gopurams very tall and ornate and adding pillared corridors within the temple long compound.Contemporaneous with the Cholas (1100-1300A.D.), the Hoysalas who ruled the Kannada country improved on the Chalukyan style by building extremely ornate temples in many parts of Karnataka noted for the sculptures in the walls, depressed ceilings, lathe-turned pillars and fully sculptured vimanas. Among the most famous of these temples are the ones at Belur, Halebid and Somanathapura in south Karnataka, which are classified under the vesara style. Today, in the state of Tamil Nadu alone, there are more than 10,000 temples, Of these 1,800 are in Tanjavur district alone. In the north, the chief developments in Hindu temple architecture took place in Orissa (750-1250 A.D.) and Central India (950-1050 A.D.) as also Rajasthan (10th and 11th Century A.D.) and Gujarat (11th-13th Century A.D.). The temples of Lingaraja (Bhubaneshwar), Jagannatha (Puri) and Surya (Konarak) represent the Orissan style. The temple at Khajuraho built by the Chandellas, the Surya temple at Modhera (Gujarat) and other temple at Mt. Abu built by the Solankis have their own distinct features in Central Indian architecture. Bengal with its temples built in bricks and terracotta tiles and Kerala with its temples having peculiar roof structure suited to the heavy rainfall of the region, developed their own localised special styles.The Hindus colonised the South East Asian countries from 7th century A.D. onwards and built many a temple. The earliest of such Hindu temples are found in Java; for instance, the Siva temples at Dieng and (Idong Songo built by the kings of Sailendra dynasty (8th-9th century A.D.). The group of temples of Lara Jonggrang at Pranbanan (9th or 10th century A.D.), is a magnificent example of Hindu temple architecture. Other temples worth mentioning are: the temple complex at Panataran (java) built by the kings of Majapahit dynasty (14th century A.D.), the rock-cut temple facades at Tampaksiring of Bali (11th century A.D.), the ‘mother’ temple at Besakh of Bali (14th century A.D.), the Chen La temples at Sambor Prei Kuk in Cambodia (7th-8th century A.D.)., the temple of Banteay Srei at Angkor (10th century A.D.) and the celebrated Angkor vat complex (12th century A.D.) built by Surya varman II
Hindu Temples and Shrines of Goa- A Goan Medly
Goa’s temples have a chequered history. With the invasion of Mohammedans, beginning from the 13th century to the Portugese conquer and occupation of the territory in the 16th century most of the Hindu Temples were looted and destroyed. No Hindu temple remained in the Old Conquests of the Portugese. The only surviving temple of the 12th/13th century is in a remote corner at Tambdi Surla. It was a forgotten site and was only rediscovered in the 1930s. This is a Shiva temple built in stone with carvings in traditional Dravida style.
In the 16th century, there is a record to show that the Portugese destroyed over 500 temples and shrines and used the building material for the construction of churches and other buildings. There are some fragments of these temples, like the Adil Shah’s Palace Gate to be found in the premises of St. Cajetan’s church at Old Goa today. The temple records give very little, for the oldest temples located in the New Conquests by flight at the end of the 16th century, were built in the 17th century or later to their present dimensions – and built in direct, if not very well understood copy of the Baroque Christian churches of the city of Old Goa (though the general style of Goa churches is that of Borromini’s Jesuit construction). This is understandable, as the Old Goa churches were the most imposing buildings, with Hindu workmen trained in that type of construction. When the emigre temples acquired funds enough for their rebuildings these same workmen built the new temples. What is surprising is that the replication seems to have been acceptable to the local Brahmins.
Temple records, if any survived the transfer, have generally been destroyed by sloth, vermin, time, the climate and on occasion fear of losing property acquired by encroachment without legal title.It was the Rajas of Sonda to whom the Hindus of Goa had turned when their temples in Goa had been destroyed, and who much to the annoyance of the Portugese, had openly encouraged Hindus to rebuild their temples in their domain of Ponda and elsewhere.
There are no Hindu temples in the Old conquests older than the 19th century. Even in the New conquests, few of the structures themselves were built before the 17th century. So most of the ‘old’ temples we see in Goa date from the 17th century at the earliest and majority from the 18th century.


Hindu temples in Goa provide yet another example of Goa’s quaint, sequestered identity, developed over the centuries under Portugese influence. Hindu temples did not remain unaffected by the distinct modes of architecture, craftsmanship, and interior decor which developed through four centuries of Portugese influence. Nowhere else in India does one find Hindu temples of Goan kind with church-like domes, doing for the typical tapering shikara or tower of Hindu temple tradition, with bungalow-like pillared porch fronting stepped entrance.
In its Hindu adaptation, the dome of the uniquely Goan temple assumed a more conspicuous profile, with a much smaller finial. The tower, or drum, was made octagonal rather than round and given a raised elevation in some temples, with each stage having lamp niches, columns and an elaborate, multi-moulded entablature.
Sri Kamakshi Temple, Shiroda
The Goan Miliue
“It takes centuries of life to make a little history
and it takes centuries of historyto make a little tradition”
– Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan
The present land of Goa (Circa 2006) is a unique political, social and cultural entity on the west coast of India. Out of the 25 states of the Republic of India, Goa is amongst the smallest and yet, Goa has a special aura of its own that attracts both national and international events, visitors and tourists in great droves. It is a small pocket with an area of only about 3,702 sq. km with a coastline of 104 km. It is bounded by the Arabian sea on the west, the Western Ghats on the east, the state of Maharashtra in the north and the state of Karnataka in the east and the south.


          Mauxi and Usgalimol Engravings
The first humans, the Homo Sapiens, appeared to have settled in Goa about 100 thousand years ago. The evidence of pre-historic tools and rock engravings in Usgalimal in Sanguem taluka and Mauxi, in Sattari taluka of Goa indicate a primitive culture that belongs to Mesolithic period of the Old Stone Age (10,000 – 5,000 BC). The early settlers were followed around 4,000 BC by the Kharvis and the toddy tappers. The Gauddes and the Kunbis (Kols, Mundas and Ouraons) emerged around 3,000 BC. The Tribal heritage of Goa is represented by the Gauddes, the Kunbis, the Velips and the Gavalys(Dhangars).The tribals represent an admixture of Austric and Dravidian settlers. These primitive people were nature worshippers whose folklore, superstitions and festivals still preserve their reverence for nature – the jungle, the sea, the sacred tree, the seasons, etc.
Local pre-Brahminic priest of Gauddes still continue in places like Kholgar. Most of their deities were absorbed by the Brahminic synthesis. Unabsorbed deities were converted to cacodemons, known generally as devchar but still worshipped by the Gauddes and the lower castes These subordinated semi-devine beings called ‘jagevile’ whose aniconic shrines are situated at various liminal sites, such as way crosses, dams, river banks, sea shores and above all the boundaries of the village territories.
The first group of Indo-Aryans said to have come by the sea and settled in Goa around 2,500 BC. The Goud Saraswat Brahmins who appeared to havecome in waves, between 700 BC and 500 AD, were the last Indo-Aryans to have settled in Goa, preceded by the Kshatriyas and the Karhade Brahmins.
The name ‘Goa’ or ‘Gomantak’ is an ancient term applied to this region. Mahabharata as well as Skandhapurana refers to it as‘Gomant’. Harivansha Purana makes a reference to it as ‘Gomanchal’ and Sutasamhita mentions ‘Govapuri’. During the time of the Buddha it was termed as ‘Sunaparant’ (Golden Land Beyond).Ptolemy, the Greek geographer (Second century AD) refers to Goa as ‘Kauba’. Arabs and the Persians called it Kuwa or Kawe and later as ‘Sindabur’ ( a corruption of the word ‘Chandrapur’). Goa is believed to have been well-known since the earlyhistory throughout the littoral countries of the Indian Ocean due to its importance as an entrepot.
Shenoy Goembab (Varde Valavlikar)explains the origin of the term ‘Gomantak’as a territory abounding in cattle from the Sanskrit word ‘Go’ meaning cattle.
For more than three millennia right till the end of the fifteenth century Goa was ruled by one or other of the Hindu kings who exercised suzerainty over this part of India, or by local chieftains who were the feudatory of these rulers. Goa was never an independent kingdom and its history up to late 18th century is inextricably meshed with the fortunes of major kingdoms and dynasties which rose and fell in the Deccan. It is two complex and too diffused a period to be telescoped into a brief and intelligible image. However, this vast period ofover three millennia is what built its intrinsically Hindu culture like the rest of India. The basic culture survived the numerous onslaughts and in-roads made by foreign powers beginning in the 14th century. Both the traditions and the culture have outlasted and survived the stormy blasts and violent and cruel periods of the history


Goa as a region, until the late 18th century, had changing boundaries that were constantly in a state of flux. Some historians claim that Goa was a part of the vast Maurya Empire in the third century BC, probably a part of Kuntala or the Banavasi administrative region of northern Karnataka. But in the absence of any material evidence this could be only a legend.The Bhoja dynasty – a feudatory of the Satvahanas (2nd Century BC) which is believed to have ruled from Chandramandala (Chandor), had South Goa, Karwar, Khanapur, Supa and Halyal region under their reign.

‘Rath’ celebration,Veling

The main Kadamba dynasty of Goa appeared to have ruled from 325 AD to 540 AD. They had three capitals. Halsi (Belgaum dist.), Banavasi (North Kanara) and Uchchangi (Bellary dist.). The area comprising Belgaum, Goa, North Kanara, Shimoga, Chitradurga and Bellary districts formed the main Kadamba Kingdomat its zenith. According to some inscriptions Mayurasarma was the founder of the main Kadamba dynasty.
Abhiras, Nagas, Traikotakas, Kshatrapas from Gujarat, Chutus from Karnataka and the Konkan Mauryas held sway over some parts of North and South Goa between the 3rd and the 6th century AD. The Chlukyas of Badami drove the Konkan Mauryas out and ruled Konkan region from 578 – 750 AD.

Kadamba Gold & Copper Coins

Goa came under the Rashtrakuta rule from 750 – 1020 AD and the Shilaharas of Kolhapur who administered as their feudatories. According to some historians, the Rashtrakutas are said to be originally from Goa (Loutulim) but later settled in Maharashtra with Malkhed as their capital. Shilahara king Jaliga had acquired the lordship of Gomantadurga and the territory covered a large area which included part of Ratnagiri up to Kharepatna river in thenorth and extended to Supa, Halyal , Ankola and Belgaum in the south.
Kadambas again became the feudatories of the Chalukyas who re-conquered Goa around 974 AD. Jayakeshi I shifted the capital of Goa to Govapuri or Gopakapattam. Subsequently the Hoysalas conquered Goa and made Kadambas their vassals. In the early 13th century, the Yadavas of Devgiri brought Goa under their reign and the Kadambas continued to be their vassals until 1314 when the Muslims attacked and sacked Govapuri
 Kadamba Emblem
Muslim invasions from the north mark the beginning of a new era in the history of Goa. These Muslim forays, though crippling, lacked permanency and hence resulted in the periodic revival of the Kadamba dynasty. Malik Kafur, the General of Allauddin Khilji invaded Goa in the year 1314 AD followed by another attack by Jamal-uddin, Nawab of Honavar with a fleet of 52 vessels as per the directive of the Delhi Sultan Mohamed Bin Tughlaq. Ibn Batuttah, the Moroccan traveller who has left a graphic account of the storming of the capital was, at his own request made the commander of the fleet. This conquest of the muslims finally ended the rule of the Kadambas of Goa. The Mohamadans looted and destroyed the Hindu temples en masse and their rule was nothing short of anarchy which lasted over a period of 50 years.
The rise of Vijayanagar Empire helped in liberating Goa from the strangleholdof Muslim rulers. In 1370 AD Harihara I of the Vijaynagar Empire sent MadhavMantri, a Gaud Saraswat Brahmin whose ancestors were from the Shenvi Regefamily of Goa, who vanquished the Muslims and established Vijayanagar rule in south Konkan. As Manohar Malgonkar says in his book ‘InsideGoa’ – “There is no monument in Goato the memory of a man called VasantMadhav, or of another who was called ‘Mai Sinai Waglo’ who was appointed as the Vijayanagar Governor of Goa (1402-1404). No plaque mention their birth places or favourite haunts and no street is named after either”. Madhav Mantri ruled Goa as a Viceroy of Vijaynagar (Govapuradhish) for next twelve years during which periopeace and prosperity prevailed which was centred around the import of Arabsteeds from the Gulf. He made Govapuri the capital of this region.
Madhav Tirtha at Brahmapuri
Among the many temples destroyed by the Bahamanis, Saptakoteshwar Temple was one. Madhav Mantri retrieved the hidden Linga and built a new temple in Divar. He also rebuilt Gomanteshwar temple at Brahmapuri. The only monument that exists today is the temple tank that is called Madhav Tirth near Gomanteshwara Temple at Brahmapuri (near Old Goa). Madhav Mantri was a Vedic scholar, an ardent Shaivite and a patron of learning. He not only restored quite a few of the destroyed temples but revived the tradition of Vedic and Puranic learning by establishing two Brahmapuris.
Peace and prosperity prevailed in Goa during the Vijayanagar reign for the next 100 years during which its harbours were important landing places for Arabian horses imported from Hormuz as well as a flourishing export trade in spices.

In 1472 AD Mohamad Gawan of the Bahamani Sultanate attacked Goa by land and sea and the Vijayanagar governor fled without a fight. Govapuri was completely destroyed with its palaces and temples. Vijayanagar made two attempts to recapture Goa but could not succeed. Bahamani Sultanate disintegrated soon after the take over of Goa and Yusuf Adil Shah of Bijapur brought Goa under his direct control in 1498 AD.


Idalcao Palace, Panaji – Built by Adil Shah of   Bijapur in around 1500 AD



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